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Stuttgart: Good-bye GT4, good-bye streetcars!
December 8, 2007: From "Strassenbahn" to "Stadtbahn"

Stuttgart is home to some of the world's most famous car manufacturers, namely Daimler (Mercedes and Maybach) and Porsche. In such a city, you would expect public transit to be crudely overshadowed by rubber-tyred transportation means, yet, Stuttgart features one of the finest light-rail transit networks. It was conceived after about a decade of mark time in the seventies, and by the end of 2007, the transition was complete: the last classic tramway (streetcar) line was closed.

The last hours of tram line 15

Line 15 was the last classic tramway line, still using the city's original choice of gauge, 1000 mm. After the conversion to Stadtbahn, it's known as the line U15.

The route itself is was roller-coaster: it started from 447 meters AMSL (at Ruhbank - see photo to the left), went down to the inner city (228 meters AMSL), then climbed up to 303 meters to Stammheim (seen to the right).

The television tower in the back on the left was the world's first reinforced concrete television tower, built between 1954 and 56. Although its foundations are only 8 meters deep, it stands up 216 meters high.

As I mentioned, the tram was meter-gauge, but the replacement (the Stadtbahn) uses normal-gauge (1435 mm). Therefore, since the start of the transition in the early eighties, most stretches were built out with both gauges (3 rails), and the busiest stops and stations also had platforms for both type of vehicles. On these pictures we can see the difference between the Stadtbahn's high platform, and the low platform used for boarding the trams.

The stop Pragsattel, also featuring dual gauges.

The most impressive stretch of route 15 is the 8,5%-climber in Alexanderstrasse. To make it more interesting, street surface is shared by tram/Stadtbahn and cars.

The line takes us up to a plateau (Fildern). As you can see, the alignment is dual-gauge.

The dual gauge trackage was built recently, originally the tram came through the woods - its empty strip could still be seen (left). Meter-gauge trams terminated here, but the replacement goes further, joining routes U7 and U8 just a bit away from the reversing loop of the tram. Note how the clean normal-gauge track is joined by the meter-gauge track on the picture to the right!

Because this is a popular recreation area, the possibility to run trams here will be retained. While most dual-gauge sections have lost the inner rails for meter-gauge during the last years, a few routes have been spared for heritage operation. This is one of them.

The most famous part of route 15 is the "panorama bend". Unfortunately the sun went away just as we arrived here, but these two photos should give you a hint, why it's loved among photographers.

GT4 double-set heading downwards on the slope.

On 8 December 2007, normal tramway operation was stopped on the southern end of the line. The farewell for meter-gauge revenue operation was celebrated with a parade, led by no. 418 built in 1925. Behind it you can see GT4 no. 401, the oldest in Stuttgart (built in 1961).

Behind them came (normal-gauge) Stadtbahn DT8 vehicles 3007+3008 built by DUEWAG in 1985, and the then-newest vehicle, 3399+3400 (left). This marked the start of the new Stadtbahn line U15 - the GT4 trams left the line to give way to the DT8 Stadtbahn cars. To the right: the new stops feature high platforms.

Meanwhile on the other end of the line

But this wasn't the end for line 15 yet! The section between Kelterplatz and Ruhbank was easily replaced with Stadtbahn, because tracks and stops were already built out.

On the other end, between Stammheim (left) and Kelterplatz (right) there was no Stadtbahn infrastructure. Here, the transition neccessited a new tunnel to be built, the construction of which could only be started after the tram is closed. Therefore, the people of these parts of the city had an opportunity and a few more hours time to celebrate...

Trams were full of people using the last opportunity to ride a GT4 around here. I also met a few of my friends from Hungary, so this was an international event :)

Local people seemed very enthusiastic: just look at this shop window, or that "Farewell GT4" sign up there!

Unterländerstrasse in Zuffenhausen. This stretch will lose its tracks - the Stadtbahn will run in a tunnel here.

Tramway approaching the last stop in Stammheim.

We spent the last hours of the day along the tracks, while local people celebrated at the terminus.

It didn't look like a farewell party, but more like a fiesta! First I thought "oh boy, at last I can buy some nice GT4 books", but then I found out that all these booths were for selling beer ;)

Around midnight the last scheduled ride (to the right) departed for Kelterplatz. There was yet another double-set coming behind it (packed with nobilities and guests - probably), but it didn't stop, so I have no photo of it.

Two photos from next day: an information board announcing the start of the Stadtbahn-line U15, and a sign in a stop on the northern end showing the line "U15E", which is a supplementing bus service running between Kelterplatz and Stammheim.

The closure of tram line 15 marked the end of an era that started in 1985, when the first tram line was converted to Stadtbahn.

© Ákos Endre VARGA, unless stated otherwise. All rights reserved.

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